One of the fun things about being a hobbyist boxing historian is that you run across familiar names that you wouldn't associate with boxing. Take Rube Goldberg, for example.

Goldberg was trained as an engineer -- his first full-time job was with the San Francisco Department of Water and Sewage -- but he abandoned that work to become an illustrator. He was at the famous Gans-Nelson fight at Goldfield in 1906 and was ringside for Dempsey-Willard in 1919. After relocating to New York, he even worked as a timekeeper at a few club fights, work he likely took as a lark. By then, he didn't need the money.

I'm not sure if the name Rube Goldberg rings a bell any more, but there was a time when his name instantly evoked the image of his great legacy, the convoluted invention that performs a simple task. Goldberg's drawings were staples in the funny pages of hundreds of newspapers.

The typical Rube Goldberg contraption had many moving parts. Perhaps a scheme would be devised to compel a house cat to knock over a saucer of milk, setting off a chain reaction that ultimately allowed a man to wipe soup off his chin with a napkin without using his hands. A Rube Goldberg competition I found on the Web invited students to invent a contraption that put toothpaste on a toothbrush in no less than twenty steps.

The last few days I wrestled with the ghost of Rube Goldberg. The United States Tax Code could have only been invented by him.